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Oct. 16, 2020, 10:38 a.m. EDT

If Biden wins, experts expect to see the first woman Treasury secretary in history

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Greg Robb

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is likely to make history by appointing the first woman Treasury secretary, if he wins next month’s election, experts said.

With Biden leading in the polls, talk is picking up on who might be on his short-list for top jobs, especially Treasury secretary and Federal Reserve chairman. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Fed Gov. Lael Brainard are already on the speculative short-list.

For now, there is a tug-of-war between progressive and moderate Democratic camps about the economic jobs.

Jon Leiber, managing director for the U.S. for Eurasia Group, thinks the moderate camp will win, at least the top jobs.

“The top jobs, Treasury, State and Defense departments will go to moderates, not progressives,” Leiber said.

The progressive camps will have to be satisfied with lower ranking appointments, he added.

Kim Wallace, who served at the Obama Treasury and is now a consultant for Federal Budget IQ, thinks that the moderate-versus-progressive story is overblown.

“There will be plenty of people available to Biden that would allow him to satisfy the desires, if not the demands, of dominant wings of the party,” Wallace said in an interview.

For economists, the immediate focus is on the Treasury secretary slot.

Some on the left hope that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, will take the Treasury spot.  Warren, who once declared herself a “capitalist to my bones,” has been outspoken about toughening regulations and accountability on Wall Street, especially in the wake of the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

But some analysts believe that Warren will stay in the Senate.

“With the Senate projected to be close to a 50-50 split, Warren could effectively hold veto power over any nominations,” said analysts at Beacon Policy Advisors, in a policy note.

Wallace said he would be surprised if Warren left the Senate. He sees signs that Warren and Biden have grown close.

“More people end up having better, fuller and mutually beneficial relations with Biden by speaking with him than by fighting him,” Wallace said.

And it looks like Warren already “has an open line” with the former vice president, he added.

The leading candidate from the “moderate” camp is Brainard, the last Obama nominee remaining on the central bank’s seven-member board.

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